6

Why can’t we get a good cup of tea?

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“Tea, tea, tea for two?” YES PLEASE!

Remember the last time you had a great cup of tea? You shouldn’t have to think. It should be your last cup. But why as parents are we subjected to such atrocious tea standards when it’s a time we need it the most (alongside chocolate Hob Nobs).

I love tea. I’m British of course I do. But then, I do love tea A LOT! I don’t drink it because I’m thirsty, I don’t find it at all refreshing in that way. My reasons are two-fold; pleasure and perfunctory. Up until I had a baby, tea was all about the pleasure for me and I love everything it signifies. I’m a busy person and rush around a lot and the act of drinking tea actually makes me stop, sit down and relax – if only for 10 minutes.

Tea drinking changed with the onset of parenthood. I’d given up tea during pregnancy which was hard but achievable as I’d felt sick for most of it. I’d naïvely wondered if this was the turning point for my tea drinking and that it was the natural opportunity to give it up. Then, after being up all night in labour, the midwife brought me a cup of tea and I gulped it down thankfully. From that moment, tea became far more perfunctory for me; I needed that caffeine fix. It was a careful balance of drinking enough tea to keep you awake after being up most of the night and not drinking too much so that if the baby napped, you could still sleep.

Ask almost any new mum and she’ll tell you how hard it is to actually drink a cup of tea when it’s hot and at it’s best. Most tea in the first six months is  drunk lukewarm or microwaved after a mammoth feeding session or a rare moment when baby does sleep – but on the condition that she lay on top of you and you don’t move, trapped on the sofa unable to move a muscle and watching your cup of tea go to waste.

My baby was into everything and was glued to me constantly but as she grew more aware, making tea became part of our routine. We made a game of it and she started to think making tea was fun – to the point now that when I ask her if we can make mummy a cup of tea, she replies ‘ooh yes please!’. We sing a song, she opens the pot, chooses a tea bag, gives it a shake and puts it into the cup. She knows the drill now and tells me what to do next – ‘be careful mummy, it’s a bit hot! Put the milk in, give it a stir, oooh delicious’. I feel like an actual Einstein genius for achieving this.

Back at work, it became a novelty to have a fresh, hot cup of tea which I could drink sitting down. My old office thought I was a tea extremist as I’d be fairly specific about how I liked my tea – skimmed milk, colour of a Rich Tea biscuit. I don’t have time to mess around with bad tea when I’m baby free. I would try to be polite and say I wasn’t fussy but then you’d end up with tea that tasted awful. Then you’d have to be even more polite and be seen to drink it. Why not just ask for something you like? Surely if someone is going to the trouble to make you tea, they’d rather it be a good one? That way, it’s actually appreciated.

I’ve wondered why soft play tea is so awful. Plastic cups, weak and tasteless, it’s usually just a tonic to survive the bedlam of children and to give you the caffeine kick to chase up ladders, through tunnels and race down slides. Surely there’s never been such a concentration of tired, thirsty mums just desperate for a great cup of tea. Maybe our desperation lets them get away with it.

My fussiness in tea drinking has reduced since having a baby. I need all the caffeine I can get and drinking cold tea or sub-standard soft play tea has lowered my standards. I consider it a huge act of kindness for someone to make or even buy me a cup of tea – and equally wary about people who don’t drink tea at all.

And so I’d like to call upon soft play centres, park cafes and anywhere that sees a mum with a baby to up their tea game. Take pity on us and serve us tea which is hot, has actually seen a tea bag for more than two seconds and has REAL milk in it – not out of a sachet or from a jug covered in cling film that’s been left out all day. You’ll not only win our custom but our life-long respect.

 

 

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6

Grounds for instant divorce in baby’s first year

It’s For The Baby is proud to published new official criteria for divorce in baby’s first year. So daddies, beware and take heed!

Baby’s first year – us mums are tired. No, exhausted. No, we’re undergoing physical torture while learning to look after another life. Our limits are being pushed to the brink and, quite frankly, we don’t have the tolerance or patience to put up with any sh*t – from any source. Unfortunately, daddies, you’ve drawn the short straw. As you spend the most time with us, we often take out our tired grumpiness on you (sorry).

So to make life easier, here are some ground rules of what we’d ask daddies not to do in baby’s first year. Break them, and they’re official grounds for divorce.

1. Saying “I’m a bit tired”. You may be tired. You may have woken up during the night feeds too. And you do work hard. But seriously, you have NO idea.

2. Calling to say “I’m going to be late home”. Some days, we feel like we’ve been at home for a hundred years with a crying baby and constantly feeding. Daddy’s return home is literally the highlight of the day and we count down the minutes until you come in the front door. Just the very thought of you being late home can tip us over the edge. So we reserve the right to over-the-top go mental over this call. Even worse is not calling at all though so that’s not an alternative!

3. Coming home and saying “I’ve been working all day, I just need a break”. Sometimes, we haven’t eaten, haven’t showered, haven’t dressed, haven’t had a cup of tea, haven’t been able to put the baby down all day. Daddies please help us and forgive us for pouncing on you the second you walk in.

4. Waking up and commenting “They slept well didn’t they?”. Never assume baby has slept through when actually you’ve slept through and your partner has been up all night. Alternative – say “How was your night (would you like a cup of tea and pack of Hob Nobs)?”

5. Saying “I think they’ve done a poo”. If you smell it, change it.

6. Spending quality time with baby to give mum some relaxation but then saying “come and see this” every two minutes. I do feel mean about this one. We know you’re excited to discover what baby can do. And we do really want to share it. But we also need to eat, sleep and wee alone. So let us do that – we’ll be back pronto.

7. Changing the baby without doing up all the buttons on their grows / trousers. Just grrr.

8. When we do go out, not listening to the million instructions mums dish out. Look, we are barely a moment without our baby and we are a bit neurotic when it comes to leaving them for the first time. Please listen to the instructions and nod – it will make us feel better.

9. Never saying we look great. Okay so we may be a bit bedraggled, exhausted looking and still in need of our maternity jeans but this means that we feel awful and very un-sexy. Your compliments will genuinely make us feel awesome.

10. Telling friends you’re “babysitting”. Does not apply when it’s your own baby.

Anyone got any others?

Caveat to daddies – don’t take this personally, we do love and appreciate you really. Refer to this blog post which sings your praises. We’re just really really really tired. And grumpy. And irrational. And we’ll stay that way until we can sleep again. We know that us mums aren’t perfect either so if you want to submit your grounds for divorce, please get in touch *braces herself*.

Happy Mummy & Daddy

Happy Mummy & Daddy

2

Maternity – your “time off”

Going back to work after having a baby isn’t easy. Not only do you have to get used to abandoning the little life you’ve spent every moment with but you also have to appear remotely intelligent and interesting again.

After a year off work, getting used to being in an office environment takes a bit of time. Initially, being able to sit still for more than a minute at a time and being able to drink a hot cup of tea was mind blowing. I likened it to arriving on my first all-inclusive holiday. Although I did then actually have to do some work.

You can imagine how I felt about my first night on the ‘work circuit’ – talking to grown ups with a large cold glass of wine in hand. Old acquaintances appeared delighted to see me after a year’s absence and I felt strangely popular. However, I quickly felt inadequate when they told me of everything they’d achieved in the last year professionally; promotions, pay rises, new jobs, new clients etc etc. For the first time, it hit home that the career I had obsessed over for so long had been on hold for a whole year.

When it came to my turn, I suddenly – unusually – felt short of words. What could I say about the last year to someone who didn’t have kids and wasn’t particularly interested in them either? I’d told myself not to gush all evening about babies and detail how I thought my little girl was a total genius because that morning she had picked up her spoon HERSELF, scooped up a tiny blob of food and put it IN HER OWN MOUTH! (I’ve already filled in her Oxbridge application).

Then came the assumptions; “oh you’ve had a year off, what a lovely break, that’s SUCH a long time, weren’t you bored with all that spare time? you must have got so much done”

I was guilty of this naivety once. Little did I know that the only thing there’s time for on maternity leave is caring for the immediate needs of your baby and NOTHING else. This literally takes up every hour of the ENTIRE day! I mean, I did have some great achievements such as surviving a week with only one hour’s sleep a night. And I felt pretty smug the time I remembered to put the TV remote on the arm of the sofa so that when baby finally napped (with me trapped underneath her), I could slowly sit down and watch daytime tele to distract myself from being unable to move despite being starving and needing the loo. You can imagine the (silent) celebrations the day I first got her napping in the cot. And when she was still a few months old, we made it out of the house – clean, dressed, fed and ready – before 9am. Boom!

So yes, I’ve had a year out of my working life and while some may think that all I’ve done is sunned myself in the garden, eaten cake and gone for yummy mummy lunches, the reality is that surviving this far has been more than a full-time job. It’s consumed every waking hour (and let’s face it, there are a LOT of those) of the day.

Of course I’ve enjoyed it and there have been many wonderful highs but maternity leave is anything but a year off work. Mums certainly shouldn’t feel like they’ve lost a year – our achievement in surviving and then thriving with a baby during that time is awe-inspiring NOT something that should be looked at with a tilted head and a half-baked “ah that’s nice”.

So next time someone gives you that look and asks about your time off, you can reply proudly with “yes I’ve been busy…but then I have created life”. It kind of puts everything into perspective.

By Laura; life creator

2

My wild Friday night – post baby

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What a wild Friday night I had this weekend.

It started with a two-course dinner out with friends, progressed to some emphatic screeching and dancing before downing a pint and ending up face down on the carpet.
The story is all in the telling so I should desist adding in the finer detail and not reveal the truth of my Friday night but I can’t help myself.

The dinner out was at the Zone soft play in Cardiff which ended up on the floor and splattered over my friend’s shoe in favour of a slice of cold toast. Of course it had to be some nice smelly fish. Wet wipes to the rescue. Once home and bathed, we played chase the wet baby with a hairdryer while we danced around the bedroom. Obviously the drink downing was milk. All was going reasonably well before we entered the nursery and were hit with a powerful odour. The last day or so I’d thought baby had woken with a dirty nappy and each time was surprised to find out that I was mistaken. But the smell had become stronger – so much so that we were convinced that there was a nasty surprise hiding from us somewhere in the room.

And so the ‘hunt the poo’ treasure hunt began. We scoured every corner, tearing the room apart. At first we imagined it was a rogue nappy that had escaped being binned (no doubt by a grandparent – it couldn’t possibly be our fault). Then our thoughts turned to baby’s nappy free time – and if there was a little present she’d left for us! But the hunt proved fruitless. So there was only one thing for it. I got down on all fours and sniffed every square inch of the carpet. Suddenly, I found the source – a rather crusty patch of carpet which looked like an old milk spill that had turned sour and caused an unnecessarily stinky stench. I was jubilant at my triumph. Then I realised what a loser I was.

The first version of my Friday night may actually have been more representative of reality a few years back. Now, things are much different. I don’t mind of course and now that the baby actually goes to bed, we can still have an enjoyable evening – usually revolving around nice food and wine. But the old me would definitely agree about my loser status when it comes to carpet sniffing.

I’m eager to be reassured that I’m not alone in my new weekend antics – so let me know about your wild post-baby nights in the comments below….

1

Daddy’s Cool – gender roles in parenting

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I like to think that I don’t conform to stereotypical gender roles. At least excessively anyway. When I bought a cupboard from Ikea, I assembled it by myself. When I decided that our spare bedroom needed painting, I took a day off work and got painting. Okay so the cupboard does have a slight jaunty angle and I didn’t paint behind the wardrobes as they were too heavy for me to move. But still, I tried.

However, a recent trip away to Bluestone (Wales’ version of Center Parcs) with my baby girl and her nana has made me question the different gender roles.

As my mum is in her sixties, if there are any ‘man jobs’ to be done, they become my domain. You know, things like carrying all the bags, packing the car, driving, bringing the car round when it rains and being in charge of possessing important items such as keys, phones and money when we go out. Of course I didn’t mind doing any of these things for my mum but by the end of our holiday, I started to think about all the things daddies do that we take for granted.

The final straw was when I went to collect the car from the car park getting ready to leave; a 15 minute walk up a steep hill in the Welsh torrential rain and gales getting dragged around by my umbrella and soaked through. On arrival, I realised I’d left the keys behind so had to trudge back down and repeat the journey. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed and I wished that I could be the one in my pjs in the warm lodge doing important ‘mum jobs’ like giving baby breakfast and generally potching around tidying up. My husband certainly wouldn’t have left the keys behind. And he wouldn’t have even moaned about the rain.

Often as the primary carer, us mums do a hard and busy job. I like to call us VBIMs (Very Busy and Important Mums). But I think sometimes we get so caught up being VBIMs that perhaps we’ve become a little bit guilty of not recognising how much daddies do too:

* Dads are not allowed to say they’re tired – I mean how could they possibly be as tired as us!? How dare they even THINK it!?

* After a day at work, we’re waiting for them by the door with a baby poised and ready to be thrust in their face.

* If they dare to be late home, they face the wrath of a sleep-deprived hormonal mum who’s often been counting the very seconds until they’re due through the door. How very DARE they be four minutes late!?

* During childbirth, dads have to pretend everything is going to be fine when they are as terrified as we are – but they don’t get to have any gas and air.

* In the first few weeks, when mums are rendered almost immovable from the sofa due to a combination of constant feeding and childbirth trauma, they suddenly have two babies to care for; baby and mum. Daddies are subjected to being at our constant beck and call. Mine would have to pass me everything which was out of my reach and even lined up a supply of sandwiches, snacks and drinks on the coffee table so I could survive the hours of sofa confinement.

* After only two weeks’ paternity leave, dads are forced to abandon their baby and wife to go back to work. It was hard enough for me after a year. I couldn’t imagine doing this after just two weeks.

* Then dads are constantly judged for how they’re looking after the baby – by their wives. From how they’ve fastened the nappy and the amount of Sudocrem they’ve applied to how they hold a bottle and the ridiculous way that they dress the baby. On reflection, how do we expect them to put tights on a baby girl when (hopefully) they’ve never had to do it before. And how are they supposed to know the ‘right’ way of doing anything when they only get to spend a couple of hours a day with baby?

* And within the space of moments, dads go from being our number one to becoming almost a bystander as a tiny little pink screaming being commands every fibre of our attention.

So I think we all need to take a minute to forget the VBIM role that we’re doing and appreciate our VBIDs. Thanks for putting up with us and our demanding ways and for being great dads.

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Do mums moan too much?

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Everyone knows that having a baby is wonderful. Fact. However, as parents cross into this unknown baby territory, we unfortunately find quite a lot to moan about. This doesn’t mean we are ungrateful for our lot or that we’re not experiencing an unfathomable amount of joy, pride and happiness at the same time – we just didn’t realise how hard some of the new moments were going to be.

Before becoming a parent, you expect to be tired. You expect to have to clean up a lot of dirty nappies. You expect babies to cry. You expect things to change. But you have no idea of how much sleep deprivation can turn you into a crazy lady. You have no idea how much poop can explode out of one nappy to the devastation of everything around it (no doubt just as you’re getting in the car). You have no idea that babies can cry inconsolably for three hours. And you have no idea of the scale of how much your life changes.

As I said, it’s not that we’re not happy, just caught out and overwhelmed by some of the harder things that such a tiny seemingly helpless baby can throw at us. Sometimes literally.

What got me starting to think about all of this was when my husband came home from work a couple of weeks ago and my friend and her baby were visiting for a play date. We were laughing over the usual high brow intellectual topics of conversation – how often our babies had pooped in the bath that week, tallying up our night-time wake ups, debating whether to get a steam mop to tackle the porridge that had been formed a rock-hard immovable mass in between the kitchen tiles and eyeing up the last hob nob. Later that evening, my husband teased me about how much we’d been moaning and how it must make me a right hoot to hang out with.

Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t have won an award for the most sparkling conversationalist of the year but it’s conversations like these that have kept me sane for the past year. Who would want to listen to me continually gloating how my baby is THE most beautiful and THE most genius baby on the entire planet?

There are moments as a parent when you feel you almost can’t cope anymore – when the number of hours sleep you’ve had in a week doesn’t even reach double figures or when you wonder what silence sounds like after bouncing/feeding/rocking/singing to a screaming baby for what seems like forever. Or you catch a look at yourself in the mirror covered in baby sick and sweet potato mush with scraggly hair and no make-up and you wonder what you’ve become. The only thing that gets me through some of these moments is knowing that there is a country full of other new parents who are going through the very same dilemmas and being able to share our mishaps together with laughter.

I used to see one particular mum friend weekly on what we described as ‘Moaning Mondays’. We did put ourselves through the mill by attempting to go to TWO half-hour classes in the space of three hours. It doesn’t seem like much but the desperate panic to get babies napped, fed, changed and traveled for two whole activities was exhausting and highly stressful. Afterwards, we’d laugh at how much we’d managed to moan that day but it genuinely made us feel better – happier people and therefore happier mums.

So yes, maybe we do moan quite a lot. But we’re not sorry about it. We need it. Although I do appreciate that I’ve responded to a comment that I moan a lot by moaning…but I’d rather be a normal (and honest) mum who laughs with her friends about her mishaps than one that needs a slap in the face for only gloating about how wonderful and perfect my life is.

1

This is my baby – butt out!

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After I had my baby, I had to stay in hospital for four days.
Now I look back and think how long it was that I was stuck in a baking hot ward full of other mums and crying babies and being woken all night – not just by my own baby but the ‘helpful’ staff who had to take my blood pressure every four hours.
At the time, I was desperate to be there. I didn’t know how to take care of a baby or what I was supposed to be doing. I looked up to every midwife and nurse like an oracle – “please tell me what to do, I want to be good at this”.

The same naive yearning for advice stuck with me for the next few weeks as I struggled with breastfeeding. My midwife and a breastfeeding consultant visited me at home but I was so desperate for help that also took on a half hour trek, a train and then a bus journey just to get to a feeding drop-in session. Did I mention this was with a one week old baby and a walking ability best described as hobbling?

But I never felt fully reassured. What I couldn’t understand is that everyone was telling me different things. Different methods, different ‘facts’, different ways of doing everything from holding my baby to responding to her cries and interpreting what she wanted. What I now know is that nobody knew my baby and nobody knew the right way of doing anything for her. It was something that only I – and her daddy – could understand and would learn instinctively each hour and day that we were with her.

But that doesn’t stop people trying to impart their often conflicting advice. The ‘experts’ portray everything they say as FACT. Many were brilliant and just wanted to help me but so many others treat new mums as idiots over the simplest of things. One scoffed at me for the way I was winding my baby (the way which actually worked). Another acted shocked that I was changing a dirty nappy mid-feed (because the previous midwife told me I had to). On day three of our feeding struggles, another sighed at me when I winced in pain, shaking her head saying “it doesn’t hurt” (it DID!)

But it’s not just the ‘experts’ you need to watch out for. When you become a mum, you suddenly find that everyone is a baby expert. Relatives, friends and – worst of all – strangers on the street. All want to give you their opinion.

I remember on several occasions being told that my baby couldn’t possibly still be hungry after cluster feeding for over an hour. So, being inexperienced and lacking confidence, I listened to them and watched as my baby became more and more distressed as I desperately tried to comfort her. I ended up leaving to feed her again secretly – which is what she wanted. Being tired, hormonal and worn out in every way, I felt paranoid that I was being judged and that others thought I was doing it all wrong. And worse, that their opinion mattered more than my own.

Surprisingly, strangers – mainly grannies – would stop me on the street to coo over my tiny baby. I’m not sure how holding a baby gives strangers the right to ask personal, intrusive and quite frankly inappropriate questions on topics from if I’m breastfeeding and how I’m raising her to childbirth and my recovery. And, most helpfully, little gems like how their baby never cried and fed beautifully every four hours.

I understand that having a baby can be a bewildering experience and there’s so much that I wish I knew. I’m hoping that all the people who gave me advice did so with the best of intentions – aiming to guide me and give me tips to make my life easier. But as I’ve mentioned, every baby is different and what works for one baby won’t work for another. I also think that the older generation look back on their parenthood experiences with rose-tinted glasses and don’t remember all of the hard times or when their babies cried for hours. I don’t believe that there was a generation of babies that didn’t cry unconsolably for their parents and that breastfeeding problems are just a 21st century issue.

To be blunt, I wish I’d told all of those people to butt out. It would have given me the opportunity to learn my baby’s cues and how to respond to her much sooner and I could have put all of the energy I wasted worrying that I was doing a bad job into much more constructive things. When I speak to expectant and new mums now, I do my very best to not give any advice. To just reassure them and empathise with how hard the early days are. And that way hopefully they won’t feel that they are being judged, won’t feel paranoid and will find their confidence much quicker than I did.